There's a lot to look forward to on the games front in 2011. With the current generation of consoles bucking the trend of the 5 or 6 year cycle, developers are deep into the ability of current hardware, churning out stronger titles than ever before. It'll be a big year of sequels, but some new titles should get some strong attention as well. Here are the top eleven games we're looking forward to in 2011, with a couple extra just outside the realm of the main list.
Mass Effect 3
The third chapter of the Mass Effect saga promises some big things. Announced officially at the Spike Video Game Awards, the game will feature Commander Shepard's return to Earth. This time around, the fight features an alien invasion. Shepard (that's you!) has to gather forces from across the galaxies to unite them against this invading force, and make it back to Earth in time. Developer Bioware is not resting on their laurels of this year's second chapter; they've made a new engine for this one with smoother graphics, and promise to continue to improve the gameplay that made a huge jump from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2. Plus, this time around, the game will be released for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3, which gets the delayed Mass Effect 2 "Definitive Edition" in January 2011. That's one to watch for PS3 fans, as well, as it also includes an interactive motion comic of the first game and a preview of the new ME3 engine.
Uncharted 2 won a lot of awards, including our Best Game of 2009. The continuation of the story featuring roguish explorer Nathan Drake easily takes the most anticipated PS3 exclusive of the year award, and that's in a year with a new Killzone, new LittleBigPlanet, new inFAMOUS, and a new Resistance. Expect Drake and Sully both back (along with other unnamed returning characters, who you can probably guess) in a journey that pulls from the lives of this fictional character's real-life ancestor Sir Francis Drake and Lawrence of Arabia, in the latter's desert. The gameplay will stay closer to the second than it did to its predecessor, but does promise better physics, a new hand-to-hand combat mode that sounds more like Batman: Arkham Asylum, and a more intelligent big bad this time around.
Dragon Age 2
Bioware's other big RPG franchise, set in a more medieval world with swords and sorcery, gets an interesting second chapter. This one will retell the first game's story as a side-story for the first part of the game, then continue on. You also now play a more standardized character in Hawke, taking a cue from the Mass Effect franchise. Players can now use a more standard-to-consoles action RPG playing style, or the strategy-based fighting from the first game, switching between the two seamlessly on the fly. Taking the best from Dragon Age: Origins and the best from Mass Effect 2 seems like it should be a winning combination, and we'll find out for sure this spring.
DC Universe Online
Finally! It's finally coming! For real! With a new final release date of January 11, the PlayStation 3 (and PC) MMORPG set in the world of Superman and Batman will finally be available for all. A beta has proved popular with fans and press alike, showing the deep development they'll get to put into the shaping of their own hero or villain. With guest stars galore, solo and group missions, monthly updates, a tie-in biweekly comic book, and the largest Gotham City and Metropolis seen in a game yet, this is shaping up to be one superheroic effort, and could even be a system seller for the PlayStation 3. After all, who hasn't thought at least once about fighting alongside Wonder Woman or going toe-to-toe with Superman?
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
Time to get taken for a ride once more. All-new character models, bigger, splashier attacks, and a new gameplay mode to get beginners into the fight make for a great sounding game on their own. Add in a roster that sees both modern and classic Capcom characters from Ryu to Chris Redfield, plus Marvel all-stars like Deadpool and Captain America and you have one highly anticipated video game. Oh, did we mention online play and a story written by comic scribe Frank Tieri? It's no wonder the subtitle of this game abbreviates to FTW.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Two MMOs on one list is a big deal in a genre of games that has been so thoroughly dominated by one title for the last several years. This is also an unprecedented third title by one developer, Bioware, on this list. The game is promised to be the "3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th" chapters in the Knights of the Old Republic saga, with the same consequence-based choices, fully-voiced dialogue, and a way larger section of the universe to be explored. Whether the signature Bioware storytelling and a thousands-of-players-at-once formula can actually match-up remains to be seen, but for Star Wars fans who want to journey to a long time ago and a galaxy far, far, away once more, this is definitely one of the most anticipated games of 2011.
Batman: Arkham City
When you finally make a Batman game that gets just about everything right, from the combat to the use of villains to the atmosphere to the detective work, how do you make a sequel? Easy, says Rocksteady, you just make it five times as big, allowing the inmates out of the asylum and taking over a large portion of Gotham City. With new villains thrown into the mix, a familiar voice cast, and a story once again from superstar writer in multimedia Paul Dini, the Batman will hold his own next fall, even against huge early favorite for game of the year like ME3 and Uncharted 3. One thing's for sure, gamers are more than ready to again don the cape and cowl and take it to the streets.
Role Playing Games have hit the big time in the Western world, and Activision has taken notice. Teaming with Marvel and X-writer Mike Carey, they're moving into the single-player choice-based RPG that's been listed on here twice already, and using the famous Mutants as the vehicle. Not many details about the game are out yet, but it features the player creating a new mutant character who will learn to use their powers in the protection of those that hate and fear them, with help from those Uncanny, Astonishing heroes. Combining a winning formula with one of Marvel's biggest franchises sounds exciting, and we'll be watching this one closely in the next year.
The Nintendo 3DS (and other console announcements?)
The 3D craze is in full effect, and Nintendo will not be left behind. In fact, they're leading the way, with an all-new handheld console that presents a 3D image without the use of any glasses or external device. Having seen it in action last summer, it's truly an incredible piece of hardware, that does exactly what it advertises. Meanwhile, we're past due for new editions of the home consoles, as well, bucking the trend of the 5-6 year cycle. Will we hear about the next Xbox, PlayStation or Wii this year? Chances are we'll at least get some guidance about the next next generation, and we can see what we'll be drooling over in a year or two.
Gears of War 3
The Gears of War franchise is one of the quintessential Xbox 360 exclusives, and the next chapter should be no exception to the hype (and general excellence). This time around, playable females are added to the mix of muscle-bound behemoths, and the story promises to be a bit deeper, to add to the crazy gunplay fans are already used to. This is absolutely the Xbox 360 game to watch this year, and to see if GoW can fully take over for the Halo franchise while 343 and Microsoft decide what to do there.
The Next Call of Duty
In the last two years, Activision's Call of Duty franchise has set consecutive entertainment records. That means it has done better than any video game, movie, tv show, or music that has hit the consumer market before. In 2011, there will most assuredly be another Call of Duty. What time will it take place in? What area of the world? Who will develop it? And most importantly, will it kick as much ass as the last two editions? If there's one game that has a solid track record, it's this one, and we'll be waiting with open arms, ears, and wallets for news on the next.
In the Corner of our eye…
First and foremost: “Bulletstorm” is such a great title it’s amazing that it has never been thought of before. However, if the title is not reason enough alone to look forward to this game, Epic Games have apparently made a high-energy FPS title with seemingly unlimited possibilities for multiplayer verse and co-op combat. Besides, a ticket into the Gears of War 3 multiplayer beta will guarantee Bulletstorm shelf space across the nation.
Silent drop-in drop-out multiplayer. No friend location. Endless open desert spaces and underground chambers. A music/sound/visual based expansion system; this is one perplexing game to explain. However, when you witness it yourself, you'll want nothing more than to dive into this PS3 exclusive downloadable title and go on a journey of your own to find out what this is all about.
Guerilla combat is the name of the game in a (hopefully) alternate possible future where the United States, after decades of economic decline, is overrun by a North Korean dominated East Asian military alliance. In what at least promises to be deviation from the standard run-and-gun FPS title, Homefront’s uncommon premise and focus on characterization in a plot written by Red Dawn scribe John Milius should have gamers nationwide screaming WOLVERINES!
About 60 other games
No joke, this could very well be the biggest year for gaming yet, and we fully expect to be surprised more than once in 2011.Additional reporting from Seth Robison CORRECTION: We originally had Frank West included in the MvC3 list of characters. This was due to lack of sleep, 3 days stranded in a foreign country (literally), and downright wishful thinking. Thanks to those who pointed it out! What games are you most looking forward to in 2011?